On Solitude and Sabbath


“…there was silence in heaven for about a half hour” (Rev. 8:1).

Solitude and Sabbath are two realities that overlap and depend upon each other. There is an interdependent relationship between solitude and Sabbath. In order to practice one, we need the other as a part of our lives.

Solitude is learning how to be disarmed inwardly in the midst of even the most dramatic outward movement: the self-surrendering motion of a tireless companion finally laying their head down to rest. Solitude is learning how to practice inner sanctuary. Solitude is like nails on the chalkboard to a multi-tasking, “relevant,” productivity oriented life. Solitude and authenticity know one another intimately and are in a committed relationship.

Whereas solitude happens in the midst of motion, Sabbath is a full stop. It is the period to solitude’s coma. However, Sabbath is more than rest, it is intention to re-root oneself in the soil of God’s love and the compost of our spiritual mothers, fathers, prophets and poets. It is the moment when I recognize that I am not the world and the world is not me. Sabbath is the practice of knowing “where I end and you begin.”

If we do not learn to value both solitude and Sabbath, if silence inwardly and outwardly is something to fear and flee, we will not only wear ourselves thin and hollow, we will lose something far more tragic: the centered-self that is able to remain in relationship with others while remaining distinct from them. The poet Rilke puts it like this:

“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”

To practice solitude and Sabbath is to learn how to be together in community, while remaining independent from one another, protecting, bordering and saluting one another. In Quaker silence, we learn how to hold a bordering and protective space for one another, allowing one another to be who they are in communion with Jesus without any pretense on our part. What a beautiful way to honor one another. And yet, isn’t this is why so many of us fear the silence? It requires us to let go of distraction, domination, and productivity. Who are we without those modern attributes?

On the seventh day God stopped. Observed. Saluted. Sitting back, God let the movement of the creation unfold. Sabbath is the practice of remembering it is God who was the first to protect, border and salute creation. And like God we can do the same. On the seventh day God embraced silence and rest, reminding us that for relationships to flourish we must learn how to be together in silence and independent in rest.


Do I practice silence as a form of both solitude and Sabbath, protecting, bordering, and saluting all of creation?


Flickr: Ferran Jordà

Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

A powerful essay on the “co-opting” of minority cultures by Parul Sehgal. This is something I am deeply interested in understanding and observing within “participatory culture,” which often takes part in remixing texts of many kinds. Sehgal’s points are a clear and necessary check on the “fast and loose” nature of those borrowing culture to create culture.

Calling out the co-opting of minority cultures to seem cool has become a public ritual. But where is the line between borrowing and theft?

…Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks [sic], whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal contro­versy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.

…In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’

Source: Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph

In ‘63 Life Magazine ran a feature article on A. Philip Randolph and Rustin about the March on Washington (8/28/63) which they organized. King and others were worried about Rustin, who was gay, being in the spotlight because he was too much of a “vulnerability.” The “Big Six” chose to make A. Philip Randolph the director of the march. Randolph in turn accepted only on the grounds that he could determine his own staff and made Rustin his deputy. John Lewis said of Rustin during this time, “This is going to be a massively complex undertaking, and there was no one more able to pull it together than Bayard Rustin.” (Time on Two Crosses, XXIX). In reading more about Rustin’s life, I am intrigued by the ways he as a Quaker maneuvered both a racist and homophobic society, while remaining very politically active.

Source: Today’s Activists Have Much to Learn

Know On Whose Shoulders We Stand

One question I’m getting a lot is about what is my responsibility at Guilford College and what are the things I’d like to see happen. I waffle on both of these fronts. One is because at least some of my responsibilities are still unfolding and being discerned. Others are hard to describe or I’m still learning what they are. Stepping into a role that has been carefully tended to and built over more than 30 years requires more sense of call and self than I first realized.  So with the help of many others, I am asking questions like: What is my work to do? What is to be laid down? What is to be shared? What do I desire to bring to the table that is not yet here?

In terms of vision there is a tension between wanting to have something invigorating to offer, “here is my grandiose vision for what comes next,” and realizing the need to just listen and be a good sponge for a year or more. It is easy for leaders to come in and have a vision for the future without having any sense of the current gifts, or a sense of the history and roots that are buried under the soil of the community. And so I am, with the help of others, feeling my way between these two overlapping circles: learning what is here to build upon and discerning what it is exactly that we’re being called to build.

My friend and colleague, Deborah Shaw, who is the director of the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program, offered this bit of wisdom to me that has helped to focus all of this even more:

“Know on whose shoulders we stand.” Continue reading Know On Whose Shoulders We Stand

Obstacles and Opportunities in the Red Sea of Transition (Ex. 14)


This is the message I brought to New Garden Friends Meeting on August 30th, 2015.

I hope, in the time that we have together, to begin to open up a terrain for all of us in the face of three critical transitions that this NGFM is facing:

  • The pastoral transition of Margaret Webb and family
  • The leadership transition of Max Carter from Friends Center director
  • The community transition in the fact that you’ve been expelled from your Yearly Meeting.

I want to approach this topic of transition by looking at the Exodus 14 and the Hebrew people’s Flight from Egypt and crossing over the Red Sea.

I see the Hebrews’ crossing the Red Sea as a metaphor for what it means for the people of God to face the tragic reality of what it means to remain faithful in the face of change.

Or another way to put this is:

The Red Sea signifies a deeply transformative experience for those who pass through and learn how to embrace change as an opening, rather than an obstacle, for growth.

In moments of great transition and change, such as you are facing, there is no guarantee that we will learn, and grow from these events. For some, what you face may become an obstacle to growth, but in our desire to pursue wholeness, let’s commit to seeing all of these things as openings or opportunities for greater depth of presence, prayer, and commitment to communal listening. Continue reading Obstacles and Opportunities in the Red Sea of Transition (Ex. 14)

And today, I say farewell to my beloved church

Here is a bit of what we did today as a farewell to our ministry at Camas Friends Church.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved…

Rejoice [Farewell] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice [Farewell]. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you…

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” -Philippians 3:21–4:13 Continue reading And today, I say farewell to my beloved church